Hitman Absolution hands-on

Hitman Absolution sniper

If you ever get a chance to poison a fish, do it. I learnt that during my Hitman Absolution hands on. Poisoning fish is super effective.

Chinatown is swarming with punters and washed with red lighting. As Agent 47, I'm squeezing through the crowd - suit and red tie intact - on the way to kill the king of Chinatown. He's about to die, but there's two questions: whether I'll make it out alive, and how I'll kill him.

Instinct mode is helping with my infiltration, making my target glow red and points of interest glow yellow, including the path of enemy NPCs. It's a filter I can toggle, just like the one Batman uses in his most recent games. But, according to executive producer Luke Valentine, that isn't IO's main point of influence: “instinct for us wasn't about those games at all. It was a response to the mini map in the previous Hitman games where you - well I - would spend about 50% of the game watching green triangles move around the map.” Whether players love or hate the assistance will probably relate to their experience of Hitman. Exactly how you're restricted will depend on your difficulty setting of choice. I'm playing on normal, but it goes all the way to Purist. Io are keeping the subtitles quiet, for now.

To be honest, It's a silly place for the King of Chinatown to hang out. The place he eats, a hole in the ground he could feasibly fall through, the apartment block overlooking a pagoda - they're all glowing politely when viewed through Agent 47's eyes. I make a mental note of each one, then wander towards his pagoda for for a close-up. I disable infiltration mode after a few steps: it makes the world saturated, so detail is lost. It seems a shame to waste Agent 47's infamous pate: it's never looked this shiny and high-res.

En route I poison some fish at a nearby stall. Why? Because I can't resist on-screen prompts. Also: I've checked this level's list of challenges; it's taught me the King of Chinatown eats fish, drinks coffee, and walks near manholes. It's also hinted at possible firearms somewhere in the level. Possible intel that he enjoys pina coladas and walks in the rain are yet to be confirmed by IO.

After pacing through the crowds I end up near the entrance to an apartment, guarded by a lonely cop watching TV. He's distracted, but not distracted enough to let me past unmolested. I sabotage a nearby fusebox then edge past as he fiddles with his TV. It's a simple, obvious solution, but this is only Act 2, and I get the feeling that IO are easing me the mechanics. I hope so; the apartment is unlocked, and a sniper rifle sits on a desk next to a security tape. It almost feels too convenient: surely a famous drug lord would be a little more worried about his own safety? Still, I'm not one to turn down a free lunch, especially when that lunch involves killing people. Both Agent 47 and I love security tapes and guns, so I pocket them both.

In the apartment up above the King of Chinatown's central square, someone's left a window open. I've got access to two of Absolution's new mechanics: a cover system and slow mo. The cover system feels nice and light, and fortunately not overly spongey. Get into a crouch and walk behind cover, and 47 will cleverly keep his body out of sight: you won't need to wedge yourself against a wall to avoid detection when room-hopping. Combined with the sniper's zoom, my mark is going to be hard to miss.

But the king has moved from his pagoda. Even with instinct mode enabled, I'm struggling to spot my target. But I needn't panic; after a few seconds of looking down the scope, an on-screen prompt congratulates me on a clean murder. The silly chap wandered off, ate my poisoned fish, and collapsed amid the crowd. And I haven't even fired a shot, but my work here is done. It's time to leave. Man, I am good.

By this point, Chinatown is in chaos. Cops are searching for suspicious-looking men, and I look remarkably suspicious. I flick back into instinct mode to detect their future paths and keep my head down. Instinct mode highlights a rope. Following it up, I spy some fortuitously-placed sacks of corn suspended on a pallet above a gaggle of cops. Ignoring obvious questions - who puts these things here? - I shoot the rope, dropping the heavy bags on the heads of the hapless police. They are knocked out of action, and I get the hell out. Now, it's time to check my score, which might be a bigger deal than you think. For more on that aspect, click here .